farm to school

Tackling Food & Justice, Youth Style!

youth food justice zoom event powerpoint and participantsOn Wednesday, August 18th, The CT Farm to School Collaborative partnered with The CT Youth Food Program Alliance to host a virtual event, for youth, by youth!

The virtual event included a career panel, and mini-workshops, that were hosted by the following Youth MCs, Sayaada Arouna of Grow Hartford Youth Program, Melyssa Cristino of Grow Windham, and FoodCorps CT Alumni, Ms.Vetiveah Harrsion.

Thank you to our CT Farm to School Youth Planning Committee Interns, Darlenne Cazarin, Common Ground High School Alum, Treyvion Taylor of Nonprofit Accountability Group, Fatima Santos of Stamford Public Schools, and adult lead planner, Ally Staab FoodCorps CT Alumni.

This event was created with the intention to expand opportunities for youth in CT farm to school.  What better way than to engage youth in educationally fun workshops related to nutrition, food justice, careers, and farm life. Local CT community leaders were our workshop facilitators and career panelists.

At the end of the event, students were sent a Certificate of Contribution, and Grow Kits from UConn Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). Students also were invited to become youth participants in UConn’s EFNEP Program.

CT Grown for CT Kids Week

apple and pear crunchOctober is National Farm to School Month – a time to recognize and celebrate the connections within communities to fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and early care and education sites. With fewer than two percent of Americans living on farms, the U.S. population continues to be more removed from the agricultural practices that sustain them. Programs and activities surrounding farm to school help to bridge the gap while fostering new relationships.

“Farm to school is a holistic approach to engaging students in experiential learning about food and where it comes from. It is a farmer delivering local food to a student’s lunch tray, as well as learning about that farmer and the communities that feed us; it’s all encompassing,” said Nyree Hodges, CT Farm to School Collaborative Coordinator. “The opportunities for cross-curricular integration are endless, even in a virtual learning environment. It bridges school and community by giving students agency to play an active role in improving our food system.”

Here in Connecticut, October 5-9 is CT Grown for CT Kids Week. Started in 2006 as a joint effort between the State Department of Education and Department of Agriculture, this week aims to celebrate and support local agriculture, public education, and their community commitment to the importance of healthy, nutritious meals in schools. Each year, legislators, food service directors, farmers, and students gather through farm to school activities and consumption of local products.

“The Connecticut Farm to School program ensures access to nutritious, delicious Connecticut Grown food for students while increasing market access for farmers throughout the state,” said Agriculture Commissioner, Bryan P. Hurlburt. “CT Grown for CT Kids Week highlights the abundance of locally produced foods in an engaging and fun way for families to establish healthy eating practices.”

While many of the activities this year will look different due to COVID-19, it’s also an opportunity to honor all who contribute to feeding children and their communities – farmers, harvesters, food hub distributors, school nutrition professionals, educators and many others.

“You can’t learn if you’re hungry. Ensuring continued access to nutritious meals provides a critical lifeline and stability for children and households grappling with food insecurity, health crises, job losses,

isolation, and adapting to new ways of learning,” said Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona. “In addition to teaching students about our food systems and where their meals come from, Farm to School month and CT Grown for CT Kids Week allows us to further celebrate the work of our farmers, food service heroes, and child nutrition partners to bring quality local foods to schools across the state – over 14 million since March.”

Students, families, and educators across Connecticut are invited to celebrate CT Grown for CT Kids Week by participating in the 5th annual HardCORE Apple and Pear Challenge. All you need is a Connecticut Grown apple or pear and to eat it down to its core. Post a photo or video to social media and use the hashtags #ctgrownforctkids and #applecrunch to be involved. Educational toolkits and more activities are available on the Put Local On Your Tray website.

“One of the best ways to reconnect to nature and healthy living is to consume foods grown in your own environment. Our bodies are designed to have that proximal relationship with our food,” said Herb Virgo, Founder and Executive Director of Keney Park Sustainability Project. “CT Grown for CT Kids Week is a great way to educate students and their families on the importance of local food consumption while supporting the local economy.”

According to a 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, 70% of Connecticut schools surveyed participate in farm to school activities. They invested more than $7.2 million in local food and 51% of the Connecticut districts surveyed planned to increase local food purchases in the future.

In 2016, the CT Farm to School Collaborative (F2S Collaborative) was convened. The F2S Collaborative is a multi-stakeholder partnership whose function is to pursue projects together that no one partner could do alone. Participating organizations represent the variety of stakeholders needed for collaborative work on Farm to School, including: Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, UConn Extension, School Nutrition Association of CT, FoodCorps CT, New England Food & Dairy Council, Common Ground, and Hartford Food System.

Farm to School Month

It’s here! National Farm to School Month, which means its time for the HardCORE Challenge – eat a #CTGrown Apple or Pear to the CORE!


Follow this link to find an Orchard near you.

Fall is the quintessential time to visit a farm with apple and pear picking, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, cider donuts and so much more!

We will be celebrating local agriculture the whole month – CT Grown for CT Kids Week is October 7-11th with National School Lunch Week October 14-18th. Check out the National Farm to School month toolkit  for wonderful ideas to celebrate the whole month!

Learn more, find recipes, and see participating schools at the website for Put Local On Your Tray.

October Apple Challenge with the Tray Project

apple crunch poster

October meant apple challenges for school districts participating in the Put Local On Your Tray Project. You can find recipes for apples on the website. They also share the following about apples:

In the Past: Apple trees belong to the rose family, and originated in Central Asia in the mountains of southern Kazakhastan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and China. It is perhaps the earliest tree to be cultivated for food.

In the Soil: There are 7,500 recognized varieties of apple today around the world. Apples grow only in temperate climates because they need a cold period in which to go dormant. Some trees can withstand temperatures down to -40 F.

In the Kitchen: Each apple variety ripens at a different time of season, and has a unique combination of firmness, crispness, acidity, juiciness, and sweetness. These factors make some varieties more suited to eating fresh, and others to storing or cooking.

In the Body: Apples are a wonderful source of potassium and vitamin C. They also contain pectin, which supports healthy cholesterol, blood sugar, and cellulose levels. The apple skin is where most of these beneficial nutrients are concentrated.

In Connecticut: Out of the 7,500 varieties of apple worldwide, 60 are grown right here in Connecticut. Our apples are generally available from mid July through the end of December.

Additional Resources:

Check out www.ctapples.org for more recipes and a list of orchards in Connecticut.

Put Local on Your Tray Sign Ups for 2018-2019

put local on your tray image with apple for connecticut farm to school programVERNON, CT, (June 13, 2018) – UConn Extension and the Connecticut State Department of Education is currently inviting school food service professionals across the state to sign up for the Put Local on Your Tray Program in the upcoming 2018-19 school year. Schools and districts that sign up will get help increasing fresh, locally grown products in their cafeterias. Sign ups will be open until the new school year starts in September.

According to USDA’s 2014 Farm to School Census, over 70% of schools in CT are offering farm to school programming, which might include hands-on activities in school gardens, cooking classes after school, and/or serving local food in the cafeteria. CSDE and UConn Extension are now partnering to increase school commitments to more purchases from local farms. Districts who sign up for the Tray Program will pledge to feature local ingredients at least twice per season(s) of their choice. Schools choose the Farm to School promotional activities that fit their needs. For example, activities might include: hosting a special taste test in the cafeteria (e.g. kale chips), marketing the products they regularly get from local growers (such as milk), using a holiday or celebration day on the calendar to feature local produce (e.g. new varieties of apples promoted during CT Grown for CT Kids Week), or integrating a recipe into their regular menu that relies on local ingredients for several months (e.g. winter root slaw).

Last year, there were a total of thirty four districts who took the pledge. The program is in its second year and continues to learn, grow, and adapt as Farm to School grows. We hope to see an increase this year, with a goal of fifty school districts. Yolanda Burt, Senior Director of Child Nutrition for Hartford Public Schools and contributor for the Program’s suite of tools, thinks districts need to define ‘local’ for themselves. She states, “Our definition of local includes what is grown and processed within 250 miles of Hartford, and/or purchasing food from small businesses to support Hartford businesses and further job creation for Hartford residents.” Districts who sign up and take the pledge are encouraged to define the criteria for local products based on what is possible and meaningful to their community.

Food Service Director for Avon, Canton, and Regional School District #10, Maggie Dreher, says, “I believe we should provide our students with the freshest, tastiest ingredients possible. An apple is not just an apple, but a story – a potential place to connect to the community.” The Program welcomes those who are not a part of school food service to tell that story with Put Local on Your Tray communication materials, when educating children about local food. There is a materials request sheet available online, for interested school community members (teachers, parents, volunteers, etc.) to ask for any hard copies of our posters, bookmarks, stickers, etc. at http://putlocalonyourtray.uconn.edu.

Contact your school administrator or food service director to encourage them to sign up and be recognized and promoted as a Tray district! Many schools already supply local products, without necessarily promoting it as such (in items like milk, or certain produce from their distributors). Put them in touch with Put Local on Your Tray for credit to be paid where it’s due!

For more information please visit http://putlocalonyourtray.uconn.edu or call 203-824-7175. Put Local On Your Tray is a project of UConn Extension, in partnership with the CT State Department of Education, FoodCorps Connecticut, and New England Dairy & Food Council (NEDFC).

Bridging the Gap Between Classroom & Cafeteria

School Districts Invited to “Put Local on Your Tray” This Fall

carrot posterJust in time for National Farm To School Month in October, UConn Extension and its partners at the Connecticut State Department of Education, FoodCorps Connecticut, and the New England Dairy and Food Council are excited to announce an opportunity to participate in a new program called “Put Local On Your Tray”.

Put Local On Your Tray promotes local food in Connecticut schools. Participants receive support and materials that help school districts plan, serve, and celebrate locally grown food. “When kids have an opportunity to learn and engage with fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables in a positive way, they are much more likely to eat them,” shared Dana Stevens, Program Director.

In the 2014-2015 school year, schools in Connecticut spent $7,244,580 on local food, and 70% of school districts that responded to the 2015 Farm to School Census offered farm-to-school programming; that’s 97 districts, 706 schools, and 355,489 students! Schools report that farm to school programs can increase the number of students purchasing school breakfast and lunch, improve consumption of healthier foods at school, and reduce plate waste.

Local procurement can be integrated into all types of child nutrition programs, including: breakfast, lunch, after-school snack, supper, and summer meals. Connecticut also celebrates CT Grown for CT Kids Week from October 3 – 7th, offering schools another opportunity to take one small step for farm to school.

Put Local On Your Tray has proved to be an invaluable component of our educational efforts at Middletown Public Schools to connect our students to local farms and agriculture while promoting overall wellness to enhance and maximize student achievement, states Ava McGlew, MS, RD, CD-N, Food Service Director Middletown Public Schools.

UConn Extension has developed posters, stickers, newsletters, and recipes to support school districts in connecting students to fresh, seasonal foods. Contact your school administrator or food service director to encourage participation in this new program.

Farm to School Programs Create New Opportunities for Farmers

Secretary VilsackWeekly Column: Farm to School Programs Create New Opportunities for Farmers
By USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.
 
An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country.
 
For example, the Lake County Community Development Corporation in Bozeman, Montana reports a 40 percent increase in revenues to farmers based on school sales alone. The Southwest Georgia Project, a community development non-profit, notes that “We’re actually seeing our farmers have hope. The farm to school program allows them to see an opportunity for a sustainable living for themselves and their families.” Testimonials in a USDA video released this week highlight the degree to which farm to school programs support healthy eating behaviors among children and provide positive economic impacts to local communities.
 
Strengthening local food systems is one of the four pillars of USDA’s commitment to rural economic development, and Farm to School programs can play an important role. To support the expansion of Farm to School programs into more schools and expand opportunity for farmers and ranchers, USDA offers grantstraining, and technical assistance. Since the start of our Farm to School Grant Program in fiscal year 2013, for example, USDA has awarded grants to 139 projects spanning 46 states and the District of Columbia, serving more than 16,200 schools and 4.55 million students, nearly 43% of whom live in rural communities.
 
Just this week, I visited the George Washington Carver Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia and the Virginia State Fair to announce more than $52 million in new USDA grants nationwide to support the development of the local, regional and organic food sectors. You can learn more about USDA’s investments at www.usda.gov/results.
 
At USDA we’re transforming school food and creating a healthier next generation. We’re happy to celebrate in October, but we’re going to be cheering for schools with farm to school programs all year long. When students have experiences such as tending a school garden or visiting a farm, they’re more likely to make healthy choices in the cafeteria. I see the change every time I visit a cafeteria; students light up when meeting their farmer. They are piling their trays full of healthy foods, they are learning healthy habits that they will carry with them for life, and they are learning an appreciation for the American farmer that they will carry with them their entire lives.

Farm To School

usda-logoAcross the country, an increasing number of schools and districts have begun to source more foods locally and to provide complementary educational activities to students that emphasize food, farming, and nutrition. This nationwide movement to enrich children’s bodies and minds while supporting local economies is often referred to as “farm to school.” The term encompasses efforts that bring local or regionally produced foods into school cafeterias; hands-on learning activities such as school gardening, farm visits, and culinary classes; and the integration of food-related education into the regular, standards-based classroom curriculum. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) supports such efforts through its Farm to School Program, which includes research, training, technical assistance, and grants.

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